St. Paul, MN -- The San Jose Sharks set a new franchise record with their ninth-consecutive win on Sunday as they defeated the Minnesota Wild, 3-2 (S0), at the Xcel Energy Center.
Powered by a dramatic game-saving play in overtime and game-winning goal in the shootout by captain Patrick Marleau, the Sharks moved to within one point of the Pacific Division leaders, the Dallas Stars. Marleau's game-winning goal was his third in three games.
|San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau (12) scores the winning goal in a shoot-out against Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, of Finland, during a hockey game Sunday, March 9, 2008 in St. Paul, Minn. San Jose won 3-2. (AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)|
Following the victory, Marleau explained the importance of the franchise record exclusively to SJSHARKS.com.
"It’s definitely a big accomplishment for our club," said the Sharks captain. "It just shows how good the team is playing right now and everyone has great confidence. We just have to try to keep that moving forward."
Going into the game, the Sharks were playing their most confident hockey of the season and riding an eight-game winning streak. With Friday’s 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose had won six-straight on the road and pulled to within one point of the Pacific Division leading Dallas Stars.
The key to the Sharks recent success had been lucrative play by Marleau and left wing Jonathan Cheechoo. Marleau had scored four goals in Sharks previous three games and Cheechoo had recorded five points in the past five games.
Starting in goal for San Jose was Evgeni Nabokov, who earned his 200th career win on Friday against the Blackhawks. Across the ice from him was Niklas Backstrom for Minnesota.
The Sharks jumped out to an early lead over Minnesota when Milan Michalek scored his 21st goal of the season in the first minute of the game.
The play began when Christian Ehrhoff fed Michalek from the red line as the right winger skated through the middle. Michalek moved over the blue line and as three Wild defenseman closed in, he took a shot that skipped over the right pad of Niklas Backstrom. The goal gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead 46 seconds into the first period.
Nabokov was tested early in the initial period. The Wild had a scoring opportunity on their first shift of the game, a shot that squeaked through Nabby’s skates and hit off the post and minutes later, Nabokov was shaken up after making a save at 17:06. After making the initial stop on a tipped shot, Nabokov was forced to pounce on the puck and then was slow to get up and reached for his right leg. The Sharks goaltender took a minute to regain composure, skated around goal and then returned to the net.
|San Jose Sharks center Tomas Plihal (39), of the Czech Republic, scores on a penalty shot against Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, of Finland, during the first period of a hockey game Sunday, March 9, 2008 in St. Paul, Minn. San Jose won 3-2 in a shoot-out. (AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)|
With just over six minutes remaining in the game, the Sharks struck again. After Tomas Plihal blocked a shot from the Sharks defensive end, the 24-year-old center corralled the puck and set off on a breakaway towards the Backstrom. Minnesota defenseman Keith Carney repeatedly hooked Plihal’s arm, but he was still able to get the shot away before the penalty shot was called.
On his first career penalty shot, the Sharks rookie skated in and roofed it top shelf over the blocker of Backstrom to give the Sharks a 2-0 cushion. Plihal flashed a huge smile as he skated back to the Sharks bench and celebrated his second goal of the season at 6:16.
“I just went there and did my move and that’s it,” said Plihal about the penalty shot. “I already knew what I would do. I was practicing shootouts yesterday at practice.”
After twenty minutes of play with no penaltys over the entire period, the Sharks entered the lockerrom leading 2-0.
Minnesota broke Nabokov’s shutout four minutes into the second period. Wild Defenseman Kurtis Foster scored his seventh goal of the season at 4:11 after receiving a feed from fellow defenseman Keith Carney.
The Sharks killed off two power plays in the second period after Michalek was called for holding at 7:24 and Patrick Rissmiller earned a tripping infraction at 14:42. Luckily, Minnesota was called for hooking at 8:20, negating their man advantage and allowing the teams to play four-on-four for a minute before the Sharks had 64 seconds of power-play time.
Foster’s goal proved to be the only tally of the period and after 40 minutes, the Sharks led the Wild 2-1.
|Minnesota WIld goalie Niklas Backstrom, (32), of Finland, blocks a shot as San Jose Sharks winger Jonathan Cheechoo (14) pressures in close during the third period of a hockey game Sunday, March 9, 2008, in St. Paul, Minn. San Jose won, 3-2, in a shootout. (AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)|
The first nineteen minutes of the third period were mostly uneventful, with no penalties and the Sharks outshooting Minnesota 5-4. Then with one minute remaining, the Wild pulled Backstrom for the extra attacker and were able to capitalize on a fluke play to tie the game 2-2.
After Torrey Mitchell took a full length shot that missed the open net and stopped behind the goal, the Sharks were called for icing and the faceoff came back to San Jose’s defensive zone. The Wild won the draw and sent the puck back to Brian Rolston on the point. The right winger took a shot that deflected off Mitchell infront of the goal and then off the skate of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and into the net.
Rolston’s goal tied the game at 19:31 and eventually sent the game into overtime.
The Sharks and Wild battled four-on-four in overtime for five minutes and Marleau saved the game for San Jose with less than thirty seconds remaining. After an offensive rush left him on the doorstep of Minnesota’s crease, the Sharks captain booked it back the length of the ice to defend a Wild two-on-one against lone Sharks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. Minnesota center Marian Gaborik took a shot that had clearly beat Nabokov and was sailing towards the net when Marleau batted it out of air and away from the goal to preserve the 2-2 tie.
"I was just able to come back and I think the puck went off Christian’s stick and was fluttering over Nabby," explained Marleau after the game. "I was able to take a swing at it and make contact. It was pretty cool."
The dramatic save ensured the game would go to shootouts.
The Sharks took an early lead in the shootout after Nabokov blocked Mikko Koivu’s attempt with a pad save and Joe Pavelski scored top shelf. Nabokov blocked his second shooter, Marian Gaborik with another pad save and put the Sharks in the position to win the game on Cheechoo’s attempt. Although the right winger had Backstrom beat on his shot, Cheechoo missed on the backhand and the shootout continued.
Next up for Minnesota was Pierre-Marc Bouchard who netted a beautiful spin-a-rama attempt to keep the Wild in the game. The last shooter for San Jose was Marleau. After scoring back-to-back game winning goals for the Sharks, the captain converted on his attempt to win the game for San Jose.
"This feels good, but I think we all know we have to keep winning our games," added Marleau. "We can’t sit back. Everyone is fighting for something and we have to keep playing hard and keep getting the wins."
Michalek – Thornton – Cheechoo
Marleau – Pavelski – Setoguchi
Rissmiller – Mitchell – Grier
Shelley – Goc – Plihal
Campbell – Murray
Rivet – Vlasic
McLaren – Ehrhoff
The Sharks will close out their three-game road trip in Nashville when they face the Predators on Tuesday, March 11 at 5:00 PM (Pacific). The game will be broadcast on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX, Sharks Radio Affiliates and SJSHARKS.com.
From the AP Wire
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -Patrick Marleau saved the game in overtime and scored the winner in the shootout for the San Jose Sharks, who won their franchise-record ninth straight game, 3-2 over the Minnesota Wild on Sunday.
Marleau knocked Marian Gaborik's last-minute shot out of the air and out of danger to preserve the tie and set up the shootout. Joe Pavelski scored first for the Sharks and Marleau wrapped it up for the visitors after a nifty 360-degree spin move by Pierre-Marc Bouchard gave the Wild a chance.
|Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstom (32), of Finland, stops a shot by San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski (8) during the first period of a hockey game Sunday, March 9, 2008 in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)|
They were behind all afternoon until Brian Rolston's 26th goal in the final minute of regulation tied the game at 2.
San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov was as good as ever, playing in his league-leading 66th game and making 21 saves - plus two big blocks in the shootout.
Tomas Plihal scored on a penalty shot, the first allowed at home in Minnesota's seven-year history, and Milan Michalek also scored in the first period for the Sharks. Seven of their wins on this streak have, fittingly, come away from home. They lead the NHL with a 24-8-3 mark on the road.
With 28.8 seconds left and goalie Nicklas Backstrom pulled for the extra skater, Rolston let one of his rocket slap shots rip. It bounced around like a pinball before glancing off Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and into the goal to tie the game.
In overtime, with less than 1 minute left, Marian Gaborik led a 2-on-1 rush and nearly won it with a wrist shot that cleared Nabokov and was on the way in until Marleau stepped in to save it.
The Wild salvaged a point out of this, but they're still sputtering.
|A shot by Minnesota Wild winger Brian Rolston, not pictured, rolls into the net behind San Jose Sharks goalie Evengi Nabokov (20, of Kazakhstan to tie the game during the third period of a hockey game Sunday, March 9, 2008 in St. Paul, Minn. Minnesota's Marian Gaborik (10), of Slovakia looks on as Jose won 3-2 in a shoot-out. (AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)|
Kurtis Foster, with help from a distracting Pavol Demitra near the crease, scored on a slap shot in the second period to cut the lead in half, but then Minnesota went the first 13-plus minutes of the final frame without a shot on the net.
The Wild are 2-for-23 in their last five games on the power play, including 0-for-2 on Sunday, and they've watched their once-comfortable Northwest Division lead vanish.
The Sharks scored on their first shot, 46 seconds into the game, when Michalek sliced through three defenders and sent the puck past Backstrom's stick. It grazed the post on the way in.
Later in the opening frame, 38-year-old Keith Carney - one of Minnesota's slowest defensemen - tried a slap shot from the San Jose blue line that was blocked by Plihal and instantly turned into a breakaway.
The only was Carney could keep Plihal from breezing into the opposite zone was to hook him. The penalty shot was awarded, and Plihal took advantage with another score that went to Backstrom's stick side.
The fans booed the referees for the call, though not as loudly as the jeer for the sputtering Wild when the first intermission arrived.
Notes: Michalek has at least one point in 10 of his last 14 games. ... After his first healthy scratch since signing with Minnesota before last season, Mark Parrish returned to action. ... Nabokov's career high for appearances is 67, set in 2001-02.